Dante dropped Isaac’s body a few yards into the cave. Carvalla stood in the shadows, watching with catlike eyes.
Her laughter filled the air, breaking the painful silence.
“You did well, pet,” Carvalla said as she approached the two.
Isaac, still conscious, looked up at the vampiress with hate in his eyes, then turned his glare to Dante.
“I do have one question though, Dante dearest.” Carvalla appeared by Dante’s side, tapping her chin with a long, sharpened nail. “Why is he still alive?”
Dante blinked. “I didn’t want anyone to find his body.” Truthfully, he didn’t want to finish his old friend off, no matter how angry Isaac made him. Even though hate stewed in Dante’s chest, it still wasn’t enough for him to want that man dead.
“Please tell me you don’t still have a soft spot for him, pet.” Carvalla flashed him a wolfish grin and wrapped her arm around his shoulder, squeezing. “Because if that is the case, then I will have you finish the job—now. We cannot have room for hiccups, dearest.”
Dante dropped his gaze to Isaac, who stared up at him with dim eyes. His blood pooled under him, soaking into his clothes. The smell, though delicious, turned Dante’s stomach sour at the thought of who the scent belonged to.
“Do it, Dante.” Carvalla’s voice hissed in his ears. “Or I will not uphold my end.”
Val…Dante swallowed and dropped down to his knees by Isaac and pulled his old friend’s body into his lap. He hesitated, looking up at Carvalla. “What if…what if we didn’t kill him?”
“Hm?” Her eyebrow arched. “What are you proposing, Dante? That we change him?” Carvalla purred at the thought, tapping her chin with that long nail again.
“What’s the harm?”
“That, my friend, is a loaded gun of a question.”
Dante frowned and looked down at Isaac, who closed his eyes and slumped against Dante. His chest barely moved with breaths, as if he was on the last leg of life.
“I will allow this,” Carvalla said after another moment of mulling. “But as soon as he gets out of hand, you will take care of him.”
“She is yours, of course.” Carvalla grinned. “This is a peculiar idea, my dearest. Changing a sorcerer into the creature he hates and fears? Marvelous. I will make a great vampire out of you yet.”
She disappeared then, dissipating into the shadows of the cave. Dante wasn’t sure if she was still around; rather, he didn’t feel her presence any longer, as if she left the cave entirely.
Dante looked down when he saw Isaac move out of the corner of his eye. The dying sorcerer gripped Dante’s shirt, groaning through the pain.
“Just kill me,” Isaac rasped. “I don’t…want that. Please—”
“I…I’m sorry, I can’t.” Dante swallowed, then brought his wrist to his mouth. His fangs sprung out from his gums and sliced into the skin, making a perfect indention for Isaac’s teeth to sit.
He then dropped it to Isaac’s mouth. The sorcerer struggled, even through the waning consciousness, until Dante grabbed his head and forced his wrist against Isaac’s mouth. Inevitably, blood filtered through Isaac’s clenched teeth, until it touched the sorcerer’s throat.
Isaac froze. His eyes widened, meeting Dante’s uncertain gaze as the blood continued to flow into his mouth. Then Isaac latched his mouth on Dante’s wrist, uncontrollably pulling on the wound with his lips and teeth.
Dante clenched his jaw, withholding a groan from the feeling. It was strange; neither arousing nor sexual, but sensually stimulating.
Isaac shoved away, clutching his head, and moaned. He shielded himself from Dante, stumbling to the side of the cave.
Dante stood, watching as Isaac slouched against the cave wall. He turned then, glaring at Isaac with vibrant, detestable eyes.
“What—why did you do this?” Isaac howled and bared his new fangs. Only halfway through the transition, the fangs were shorter than Dante’s and not as sharp.
“I couldn’t kill you.” Dante pursed his lips. “I…I’m sorry—”
“Don’t give me your fucking apologies, Dante,” Isaac spat. “Fuck you. You were too weak to kill me, so you damn me to Hell? How dare you—”
“Do you think Val would be happy that you were alive?”
“I think she would mourn me just as if I were dead.” Isaac covered his face with his hands. “Undead. I’m undead—because of you.”
“You’ll thank me later.”
“I will never—” Isaac froze and clutched his chest. Dante imagined that at that moment, the undying fires of hunger began in the pit of his abdomen and fans of smoke lit under Isaac’s lungs. “What—”
“You need to feed.” Dante walked to him and offered Isaac his hand. “Come on, I’ll—”
“No.” Isaac slapped Dante’s hand away and shuffled away from him, still supporting himself by the wall. “Leave me alone. I’ll...do it myself.”
Dante narrowed his eyes and trailed after Isaac as he left the cave. He watched the new half-vampire stumble through the forest, fighting through the fire in his chest.
At that moment, Dante felt like he did the right thing: he saved his best friend. He showed kindness to the man who was going to kill him.
Isaac would have to feel obligated to Dante, after his head cleared of the stress of the event.
And then both of them would go to Valeria, take her away from the wretched sorcerers, and they would live their immortal lives together.
Unfortunately, that could never happen.
● ● ●
Korinna didn’t stop at the heavily bleached house once she escaped the forest. Instead, she took to the sidewalk, heading to the town square where a park sat. There, she chose to stay, sitting at one of the park’s outdoor dining tables and drumming her fingers against the wooden surface.
During the whole night she sat there, watching and listening. Her enhanced ears picked up so many screeches, all coming from the forest, until suddenly the noises stopped.
She checked her cell phone, noting the time and how close it was to dawn, and wondered if Isaac finished killing off Dante’s coven members.
Lottie’s name popped up on the phone’s screen just as Korinna was about to shut it off. Hesitantly, the succubus answered the call.
“Kori,” Lottie breathed through the phone. “Dante’s going to go kill Isaac.”
“What?” Korinna felt her heart stop for a millisecond, before it picked up at a rapid pace. “But—he’ll win, right?”
“I don’t know.” Lottie paused, then said, “Aren’t you with Isaac right now?”
“No, I ran off. I’m at the town square instead.”
“Why, what happened?”
“That vampire is psycho, Lot,” Korinna said. “I swear, he almost killed me.”
“Dante didn’t seem too hopeful about killing Isaac,” Lottie said. “I…I think that he might lose. Isaac’s been draining every vampire that Conner sent out tonight. That psycho’s on steroids now.”
Korinna panicked. While she was pissed off at Dante, there was still love for him. Maybe a twisted kind of love, but she still cared, and if a vampire that she only knew for two days was going to kill the only person that ever really cared for her, then by God, she was going to do something about it.
“I’ll talk to you later, Lottie. I’ve got to do something.”
“What—” Korinna cut her off by ending the call.
Several months ago, Korinna had snooped through the coven’s information directory, taking phone numbers and names. One in particular, while it was not a direct line to a very powerful person, was well enough protected that Korinna figured it would be good to have it.
Her intuition was right for once.
Korinna scrolled through her contacts list and tapped on the number, bringing the phone up to her ear as it began to dial.
● ● ●
Days later, an earthquake of chaos broke apart Dante’s world. His plan to change both siblings into vampires turned sour and he found himself forced to pick up the pieces. From Carvalla, he learned of the rules of the vampire world: “your sires were your children and whatever messes they made, you took care of.”
And so Dante stood at the foot of the carnage. Half of Independence was doused in blood and death, all like a crumb trail to Isaac, who stood at the foot of his parents’ estate, on his knees and sobbing into his arms.
Carvalla appeared beside Dante, caressing the back of his neck before her claws tightened around his throat.
“Fix this,” she screamed in Dante’s ears. “Fix this—now.”
How? Dante mouthed to her, but she had disappeared into mist and shadow, leaving him to take care of his Turned child.
He swallowed and stalked over to Isaac, his footfalls silent against the blood-splattered gravel.
Isaac turned just in time for Dante to appear by his side and swiped at him with his claws, screaming, “Leave me alone.” His voice turned into an unholy scream as he lunged at Dante—and stopped just centimeters away from his Master.
Dante frowned and followed Isaac’s gaze, until his own eyes fell upon the frail image of Valeria, untouched by the chaos, standing in the middle of the Castro’s yard.
Valeria wept into her hands, her feminine shoulders shaking.
Dante disappeared from Isaac’s side and approached Valeria, covering the distance within a mere second. She jolted in surprise, pulling her face from her hands to stare at him with an open mouth.
“Please—don’t—” Her fists clenched by her side as Valeria stifled her sobs. “Please, don’t kill me—don’t kill him—”
Dante’s eyes widened with surprise. How…how did she—?
“Leave us alone,” Valeria whispered and turned her face away from Dante. “You’ve killed our family…”
“I have?” Dante’s jaw dropped. “Your brother—”
“Your vampire clan,” Valeria stuttered and pointed her finger in Dante’s face. “They have killed my family, not Isaac. Isaac saw this—he wanted to help—he…”
“Isaac must be contained, Valeria. I can’t let him go free.”
“Like you did before?” Her bottom lip trembled. “Please, Dante—just let us go. I…I’ll take him far from here, save him.”
“I can’t let you do that.” Dante covered his face and inhaled calming breaths. This…was not good. How could he save Isaac? How could he make Valeria happy? He couldn’t let them go—not now. Not after everything he did to damn the siblings.
And if Carvalla was watching…no, she wouldn’t let the Castro siblings escape. Not after all of this—and especially not after she commanded him to fix it now.
He studied Valeria, who watched him think through the situation. Tears stained her cheeks. She sniffled, wiped at her face, and turned her gaze to Isaac, who stood, statue-like and dazed, feet away from him. As if something broke inside of Isaac.
“Your powers,” Dante whispered, remembering. “Is there any way we can save him—and keep him hidden?”
Valeria pursed her lips. The look of distrust in her eyes caught Dante off-guard as Valeria sighed and shrugged.
“There are…things, I could do.”
“I…I could put him into a sleep…” Valeria stepped backward, putting distance between her and Dante, and hugged herself. “I…I don’t think I could do that to Isaac. Please, Dante. Can’t you let us go?”
“No, he can’t.” Carvalla’s laughter echoed in their ears as her shadow flitted through the air. She materialized by Dante, leaning on the vampire with her arms wrapped around his shoulders and her nails caressing the skin of his cheek.
Dante withheld a flinch and watched as Valeria paled at the trickster of the story, the vampiress.
“Carvalla…” she whispered and gulped. “You—you’re behind this?”
“Of course.” Carvalla grinned, flashing her fangs, and sighed into Dante’s ear. “My little pet has done well. Now, time to take care of his pup—and his lover.”
“Car—” The vampiress shushed him with a finger to his lips and whispered into his ear.
“Do as I say, or she will die before you can blink.”
So Dante shut his mouth and pleaded with his eyes as Carvalla moved away from him and toward Isaac.
Isaac watched as the vampiress approached him, but didn’t move.
“Kill him,” Carvalla said, trailing a finger down Isaac’s cheek. “Or trap him. Simple.”
“We’ll do neither—” Valeria said, until Carvalla’s sharp nail dug into the curve of her throat. The vampiress circled around the sorceress, cooing.
“You will do either, or you will die.” Carvalla’s eyes flashed red as they turned to Dante. “Dante won’t allow any of that, will he?”
“Okay, Carvalla,” Dante whispered. His shoulders wilted as he turned to Isaac.
His sired vampire stared at him with blank eyes, slouched against the ground. The lights were dim in his eyes, as if his mind was elsewhere while his body dwelt with them, in front of his parents’ home.
“No—” Valeria shoved past Dante and Carvalla and fell to her knees beside Isaac. She held onto her brother, sobbing, and screamed, “Don’t hurt him! I’ll do it, okay?”
And so it started: the beginning to the end.
An hour later, they found themselves in front of the cabin. Valeria walked Isaac there, clutching his shoulders, and Dante trailed behind them, waiting for the moment that Isaac woke up from his trance and continued his slaughter. Carvalla’s presence followed Dante, just as peels of her laughter echoed in his ears.
Valeria found the sorcerers’ dark magic book, opened it, and scanned for the right spell.
The spell of binding, body and soul. The ingredients were, strangely, all within the cabin, and within minutes, Dante and Valeria had the ritual prepared. They didn’t speak to each other for the entirety of the preparation, even though Dante tried to talk—tried to apologize—tried to profess his continuous love for her, no matter what happened.
And then, just as Valeria opened the book and began to recite, she said, “I hate you, Dante Weshlan. I hope you rot.”
The rest was history.